Heart of Stone
I love gargoyles. I spent quite a bit of time babysitting in the mid- to late-nineties, and was introduced to the Gargoyles cartoon by a 4-year-old boy. I promptly fell in love with the show, the characters, and the romance of it all (and there is definitely romance in there, whether or not that 4-year-old boy agreed), and since then have devoured everything gargoyle that came my way. When I saw there was a gargoyle romance up for grabs, I jumped at the chance to read it, and while I wouldn’t say it was the best I’ve ever read, I wasn’t disappointed.
Ella Harrow is normal, darnit. Ella works for the Vancouver Museum of Art and History, giving tours, managing the gift shop, and attending donor parties to build the museum’s patronage. She’s normal. She is. Except for the part where she’s really not. Since she was a child, Ella has held something back, something that could destroy her and those around her. But when she is attacked outside the museum late at night, and saved by a monstrous statue come to life, all she can do is pelt the creature with everything she has at her disposal. Which promptly does absolutely nothing.
Kees is a Guardian, stuck in magical sleep for years, only to wake up not to a demon, but to a screaming woman and getting hit in the face with magic. It may not affect him much, but it’s certainly not what he wants to wake up to. Now he’s stuck with a woman who has no idea of who or what she is, and on the hunt for others who can help them. But without the magical Guild members as back-up, or to teach the lovely Ella, he doesn’t have much choice.
First things first – thank you, Ms. Warren, for pointing out there is a difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque, and that your heroes would actually be considered grotesques. (For those who are not ridiculous trivia fans, a gargoyle is meant to channel water, and usually has a spout coming out of his mouth, whereas a grotesque is just a solid carving, meant as decoration. I can also go on for some time about the difference between a trebuchet and a catapult. Feel free to laugh at my nerd-dom.) While technically Kees and his Guardian buddies are grotesques, calling this a “grotesque romance” just doesn’t have the same draw.
Here’s the thing, though. I wanted to like Ella, I really did. And there are moments where she shines. She’s strong and independent, and stands up to Kees and his overbearing commands, which was really nice. She’s smart and just a bit sassy. Unfortunately, she is also all over the board emotionally. Now, I understand that with everything that’s going on, she’s stressed and upset. I do. But I just spent so much time being frustrated with her that even when Ella and Kees’ relationship starts to build and work out, I still couldn’t like her as much as I wanted.
Kees was a pretty awesome character, and definitely old-school. He’s also, sadly, in complete denial for most of the book. It certainly frustrated me to no end, but it worked well for the story. Guardians are supposed to be warriors, what use do they have for emotions? So when Ella brings out “feelings” in our gargoyle, he panics and basically runs the other direction. Except without the running away, because he still needs to protect Ella and save the world. It works.
One of the most important things about creating a world with magic is that you have to know backwards and forwards how everything works. This one was close – there were some things that confused me (at first I wasn’t sure it was actual magic, rather than paranormal creatures and mental powers) – but once we got towards the end of the story, things started to gel. I feel like overall this installment of the series was dedicated more towards building this world than I would have liked, but I did enjoy the universe the author created.
So there were things that worked for me and things that didn’t. It was interesting, though, and fast-paced, which helped the urgency of the story. In the end, I know I will be looking for the next book in the series, which is scheduled to come out in August. Maybe it’s just because I really like gargoyle stories, but I have high hopes for the characters in the sequel (we meet the new heroine briefly and she looks to be a riot.)